Despite having had a lot of positive feedback about Joburg, I was still pleasantly surprised by South Africa’s largest city. After already finding my piece of dolce vita in Cape Town, I was even more surprised to find another authentic piece of dolce vita in Johannesburg. Unlike in Cape Town, where I did my research to find “real” gelato, in Joburg I was lucky to stumble across the La Cremosa mobile gelateria stand and one of the “two guys from Rome” on a Sunday morning at the Market on Main in Maboneng.
With La Cremosa the “two guys from Rome” have made a valuable contribution to Joburg’s foodie scene. They not only brought the know-how and the traditional and authentic Italian family recipes with them from Italy, but also the machines from the family’s gelateria in Rome, which along with the selected ingredients are vital for the high quality artisanal gelato they produce.
With the traditional benchmark flavour pistachio passing the test with flying colours, living up to my expectations when it comes to the taste of fruit sorbet also seemed to be a piece of cake. After being so impressed, I’m now not only grateful to La Cremosa for sweetening my day and stay in Joburg, but also to Mauro for taking the time to answer some questions I had about them and their gelato business.
How and where did you learn your trade as a master gelato craftsman and how did the idea of La Cremosa come about?
As every Italian kid, I spent many many hours running around gelaterie in Rome. My advantage was that our family’s best friends had a gelateria in Trastevere (downtown Rome) and I had the privilege to spend hours and hours playing with their kid, David Ficini, in their laboratory. That’s how everything started.
30 years later I am still hanging around with David spending all our free time in the laboratory of that gelateria trying to create the best ever gelato.
2 years ago I moved to Joburg for work and that’s also when the idea to start an Italian gelateria came about. The first thing I noticed when I landed in Jozi was that there was no real Artisan Italian Gelato! Together with David and Sandro Tomassetti, a friend of ours from Rome, we packed up some old Italian gelato machines and shipped them to South Africa…
What makes your gelateria so special? What gelato machines do you use and why?
At La Cremosa we are crazy about quality! Fruit is local and fresh, milk is fresh, pistachio and hazelnuts come from selected Italian producers, the same for amarenas. We now have 3 lines: gluten free, vegan and sugar free. Thanks to some of our Italian suppliers we are constantly busy with R&D on products, in order to constantly improve our customers’ experience.
Our gelato machines and freezers come from Italy, as that’s where most of the best manufacturers come from. This is what we need to guarantee the quality of our gelato during the production, storage and sales phases.
What is your opinion on gelateria chains, which are gaining an increasing foothold on the Italian market, and some also expanding internationally?
As every artisan I am proud to say that at La Cremosa we see every single strawberry that we cut and we peel every single mango with our hands before putting the gelato in the batch freezer. That said, I really appreciate some of the “big guys” that are able to offer the same quality of gelato through a different (and much bigger) organisation. It helps to create a market for gelato, especially regarding the international market, which to be honest is crucial!
I definitely get angry when it comes to big chains who sell cheap product but try to market it as the best and genuine gelato in the world.
From our side we try to fight against such dishonest marketing, by educating our customers and giving them all the means to understand what Italian Artisan Gelato is all about.
What tips would you give someone who might want to follow your footsteps and become a gelato craftsman or open their own gelateria?
This job is a great adventure and it can offer great opportunities, especially regarding the international market. It really gives you an insight into the culinary world. Like any other job, if you want to do it right, it needs a lot of dedication and perseverance.
Don’t take short cuts. If you want to make gelato, make a real one and let the world appreciate what it really means. Don’t fall into cheap traps! Pistachios aren’t almonds with green colorants and sorbets aren’t made with industrial flavouring products…
What is your favourite flavour to make?
I love making sorbets. As a reward for all the effort which went into the peeling, the smell of fresh fruit spreads throughout our entire laboratory once it comes out of the batch freezer.
What are the most popular flavours and what’s your favourite flavour to eat?
Our South African customers are in love with pistachio. It’s incredible how many kilos of pistachio they can eat in one day. They also are amazed by all our fruit flavours where they can really feel the fruit pulp and smell the freshness of the ingredients. My favourite flavour has always been “Fior di Latte” – the pure milk gelato!
What makes you proud of the gelato you produce?
We are proud to produce a real gelato made according to our Italian recipe and to use the best quality ingredients.
What challenges have you faced with starting the business?
We struggle everyday to get the ingredients that we like. When we landed in RSA we found many (too many) cheap products that suppliers are used to sell to their clients. We constantly need to educate our customers on what gelato is and why it is different (also in terms of price) from the normal ice cream they are used to.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
La Cremosa is now opening 2 new shops in Jozi and already thinking about the next step out of town… very exiting plans. We are now busy with the launch of the sugar free line (made with Stevia) and we are constantly studying new receipt and products with our Italian suppliers.
What are your impressions of Jo’burg’s gelato / ice cream scene, especially compared to Italy?
Gelato in Joburg…? Ice cream scene is very limited in Jozi. And many cheap products are in the market. I saw very recently some new products (still ice cream and not Italian gelato) that are not bad…I hope that this positive trend goes on.
The big difference with the Italian market is that average customers are aware of what is good and what is not so, in Italy, many bad gelatos have no space. Generally, Italian customers are well educated on the dignity of the gelato and know what to spend many for.
What kind of customers visit your shop, who are your favourite customers and which celebrity would you most like to serve gelato to?
The most frequent customers are over 26. It is generally people with food consciousness that appreciate quality and that are open to have a real Italian experience (we try to stay away from customers that is complain because we do not serve bubble gum ice cream…). I love curious customers that ask, ask and ask about manufacturing processes and about what gelato really means.
I would be very honoured to serve our gelato to Carlo Petrini – the founder of the Slow Food Movement.
Thanks Mauro, for your time answering my questions and your insight into the gelato industry. For anyone in Joburg who loves gelato, doesn’t know what it is yet, or might not have the time or money to escape to bella Italia, go and visit La Cremosa!
La Cremosa can be found at
– Market on Main, Maboneng Precinct, every Sunday
– Jackson’s Real Food Market, Bryanston
Online La Cremosa can be found at
– facebook: La Cremosa
– instagram: Gelato La Cremosa